With $800 million at stake, let the games begin

Ready, set, go: Gov. Andrew Cuomo has officially kicked off the race for $800 million in state economic-development funds through the 2017 REDC competition.

It’s on: Governor Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday officially opened the seventh round of the annual Regional Economic Development Council competition, a statewide funding contest in which each of the state’s 10 economic-development zones wins, but some win more.

This year, the 10 REDCs will be combing through individual project pitches and preparing master proposals for their slice of the chunkiest state pie yet: more than $800 million in economic-development resources, including grants, tax breaks and other support for projects deemed economically productive.

The Consolidated Funding Application will officially open to applicants on May 1, enabling businesses, municipalities, not-for-profits and even private citizens to begin applying for assistance from dozens of state programs. The major requirement: The projects they pitch must aim to create jobs and revitalize local communities.

Over their first six years, the REDCs have “successfully brought local communities together like never before,” Cuomo said Tuesday, and are responsible for “spurring economic growth from the ground up and creating jobs across New York.”

“With the seventh round of the REDC awards, the state will continue its partnership with local governments and community leaders – making smart investments in our cities, towns and villages to give the Regional Councils the tools needed to build their communities for years to come,” the governor added.

Historically, the Long Island REDC has performed very well in the annual competition. Co-chaired by Long Island Association President and CEO Kevin Law and Hofstra University President Stuart Rabinowitz, the Island council has delivered $486.5 million for 590 projects; that dollar total is third behind the overall haul of the Central New York ($529.1 million) and Finger Lakes ($506.1 million) REDCs.

The New York City council has actually hauled in the lowest dollar total through the annual competition – just $400.4 million for only 452 projects, which is also the lowest number of projects funded through the contest.

The 2016 contest marked a bit of a reversal, with the NYC council emerging as a “top performer” and earning $80.2 million in funding, and the Long Island REDC – a four-time “top performer” in the contest’s first six years – finishing in the lower echelon with a $62 million haul.

All told, the REDC competition has dished out upwards of $4.6 billion over six years, to the benefit of more than 5,200 statewide projects. State economic-development officials estimate the contest has spurred the creation and/or retention of more than 210,000 jobs.

The $800 million to be doled out this year includes up to $225 million in performance-based grants and tax credits through Empire State Development, Albany’s main economic-development engine, and another $575 million in funding through two dozen other state agencies.

Judges of the 2017 contest will pay special attention to projects that prioritize the state’s burgeoning life sciences cluster, promote collaboration between industry and educational institutions and include clear performance measures in their strategic plan.

More information on the application process and the competition guidelines can be found in the 2017 REDC Guidebook.

Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, who chairs the Regional Economic Development Councils program, said Cuomo’s funding scheme succeeds “by empowering the people who know their communities the best.”

“As the chair of the Regional Councils, I have seen proof that this investment in innovation and technology has revitalized our economy,” Hochul said in a statement. “Projects initiated with REDC funding are redeveloping our downtowns, retaining and expanding businesses, and rebuilding our infrastructure for the 21st Century.”